Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Interview with Jane Bayley of The Swinging Cats

The Swinging Cats were a Coventry-based band that formed at the end of 1979 during the height of 2-Tone mania. The band originally came to prominence by winning a Battle of the Bands competition at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry. The band played a mixture of ska and calypso originals as well as a number of covers of Sandy Shaw songs. Word has it that Jerry Dammers dated the band's original vocalist and that was how he knew about them. After they replaced Holly & The Italians on The Selecter's March 1980 tour, 2-Tone offered them a deal to record a single.

The band line-up that recorded for 2-Tone was:

Toby Lyons:Keyboards
John Shipley:Guitar
Jane Bayley:Vocals
Paul Heskett:Sax
Billy Gough:Drums
Chris Long:Percussion
Steve Vaughan:Bass

After breaking-up, Paul Heskett later toured with The Specials and played Sax on 'Sock It To 'Em J.B' & 'Braggin' And Tryin' Not To Lie' on the More Specials album and Flute on Ghost Town. John Shipley joined the Special AKA on guitar and recoded the "In The Studio" alum and Toby Lyons met Terry Hall after he left the Fun Boy Three to form The Colourfield. Lead vocalist Jane Bayley became Jane Bom-Bane 'Queen of the Funky Harmonium' and now performs around the UK at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe festivals.

Here is a video of their one single "Mantovani" for 2-Tone

Here is an interview with Jane Bayley that was conducted in 2005 by Paul Williams on the Ska Dance Craze web site:

Do you think the band could/should have lasted longer?
Yes, it's a real shame they didn't, at least before they made an LP.

As the so called easy listening band of the 2tone era, did you feel on the outside looking in as the 2Tone movement took off and ended?
Not really. It didn't last long, but the other 2tone bands were very welcoming!

What exactly are you doing now? Any involvement with Ska? What was your last Ska CD /LP bought or any CD ?
Still wielding the mechanical hats and harmonium up and down the country to gigs and festivals, usually with Nick Pynn, with each of us accompanying the other's songs and tunes. This year's hat is the Einstein Hat, which I've just begun to make. It goes with a song about the man himself, who 50 years ago came up with the General Theory of Relativity, which deserves celebrating, doesn't it? Ska - well, yes, during our gig at the Brighton Festival, me and Nick played a version of 'Away', the one and only single I did with the Swinging Cats. The audiences was sitting down, but there was a lot of foot and hand skanking going on. I still really enjoy the old Trojan stuff I've got.

Have you any rare unheard footage of The Cats?
Unfortunately, I haven't.

Were the band happy with the single 2Tone put out?
The Swinging Cats were happy with the single they made, but when it came out it sounded a bit odd. Recently, someone said they thought the holes in the records must have been slightly off-centre!

Why didn’t you do an LP?
Same reason that we didn't last long.

How come you were not as prominent as the other 2Tone bands on the label, was this down to timing, politics surrounding the label and the band or Jerry having his favourites to promote?
We came towards the end of the 2tone era. The line-up changed so many times in the band, I don't think Jerry, or anyone else could keep up.

Did you write all your own stuff and what was your favorite band in the label?
The band had a selection of covers and original material. More and more songs were being written all the time, and eventually I suppose it would have been all our own material. My favourite band was the Specials, but I liked them all. They were all great live bands.

Do you think that if 2Tone had come along at a different time it would have been as big and as important?
Yes, definitely. My son (18) and all his friends, and friends' kids all know and rave about the Specials and 2tone. I think it's revived itself because of the internet access to music of past decades.

Do you still keep in touch with anybody from any of the other bands?
Yes, one or two!!

There were rumours of a Swinging Cats reformation- Can you clarify what went on and why it didn’t come off?
A few years ago I had one phone call from an old Cat to ask if I fancied doing anything again and where I was playing next, but no-one came to the gig and I never heard any more. Or maybe they did come, but hot-footed it away because they didn't like it

You can learn more about Jane by visting her website.

Here is a download of their one single for 2-Tone:

The Swinging Cats - Mantovani/Away

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

word has it right! I was engaged to Jerry, and was the 'other singer' from the swinging cats...we were on Look Hear doing Away and Never on a Sunday. I was also on the Selecter tour in 1980.